By Tom Mast, special to Oil City News
The 2016 Casper Start-Up Challenge helped Brian Deurloo realize a dream. And not a “dream” in the form of a wakeful ambition either, but an actual middle-of-the-night dream.
Brian is the president and founder of Frog Creek Partners. His company makes the Gutter Bin, an innovative stormwater filtration system.
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While heavy rains might clean streets, the rubbish washed away doesn’t simply disappear. Whatever goes down a storm drain usually ends up in a local river or other body of water. In Casper, Brian estimates over a million pounds of such stormwater pollutants are carried into the North Platte River each year.
Due to impervious surfaces like pavement and rooftops, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency points out that a typical city block generates more than five times more runoff than a woodland area of the same size.
The Gutter Bin is designed to remove pollutants like cigarette butts, hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and plastics from stormwater. The easy-to-maintain system is installed in storm drains and includes a disposable filter, called a Mundus Bag.
“The main point of the water bin is to get the water to flow into the Mundus Bag,” Brian said. In a matter of seconds, a full bag can be removed and discarded or recycled, then replaced with a new bag.
Gutter Bins are recommended for use in areas prone to pollution, including sensitive sites like inlets of unprotected waterways and downstream from parking lots, gas stations, restaurants, construction sites, and industrial complexes.
Brian grew up in Wyoming and received a degree in mining engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. He then spent years working in mines, and in the oil and gas business. But the primary inspiration for the Gutter Bin came from a source other than his work experience.
One night, while fast asleep, Brian dreamed about the Gutter Bin concept. “By three o’clock in the morning, I was out in the garage putting together a prototype,” he recalled.
A few months later, Brian learned about the 2016 Casper Start-Up Challenge – the first year for the event – and decided to enter his stormwater filtration system.
“It was a good impetus to leverage me to do something about my idea,” he said. “I thought I had a good idea, and what better way to see if your idea is good than to show it to a bunch of people and see if you can win a competition?”
Pitching his product as part of the competition was particularly helpful. “It made me think about, is this a good idea the market will accept? It forced me to ask myself the hard questions.”
In the end, Brian was one of three Qualified Finalists in the Start-Up Challenge. As such, he received $5,000, free office space at the Casper Business Incubator, and access to a $50,000 Seed Fund. Staff experts continue to offer advice as the need arises.
The Start-Up Challenge is administered through the Wyoming Technology Business Center, a part of the University of Wyoming. It also receives financial support from the John P. Ellebogen Foundation, First Interstate Bank, and the Casper Area Economic Development Alliance.
The aim of the program is “to catalyze Wyoming technology start-up businesses and provide the opportunity to apply for seed money to take the business past concept stage and into real-world first article builds and initial sales,” according to the Start-Up Challenge website.
John Huff owns the Yellowstone Garage restaurant in Casper, and Gutter Bins are installed outside his establishment. He said while staff members keep the premises clean, it’s still surprising how much debris the Gutter Bins caught during a recent hailstorm.
“I think it’s a really good idea,” John said. “I’ve been excited about it since day one.”
With a boost from the Casper Start-Up Challenge, the future for Frog Creek Partners seems bright. Brian recently signed an exclusive supply agreement with Mycelx, a Duluth, Ga., firm that focuses on removing oil and hydrocarbons from water. He also is conducting a pilot project in Sheridan to reduce sediment flows into a creek, and he is working to establish other clean-water projects in Colorado.
“My immediate plans are to expand our presence in Colorado and California, and then potentially in Hawaii and other states,” Brian said.
Brian thinks the Start-Up Challenge provides a golden opportunity for any entrepreneur hoping to launch a new venture.
“Anybody who is sitting on the fence, who has a business idea that they want to try out, should at least take steps in enter the Start-Up Challenge,” he said. “What do you have to lose? It may be something you’ll regret if you don’t follow up on that dream of a business you want to start.”
How to enter this year’s event
The Casper Start-Up Challenge is open to any new and independent venture in its seed, start-up, or early growth phases. Information and application materials are available online at https://app.reviewr.com/s1/site/casper2018
The application period for this year’s event is open, and the deadline is Sept. 7.
If you have questions or need assistance, please contact Jerad Stack, online at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 307-315-6401.